Two private sector service providers have been selected by the US Federal Aviation Administration to uplink weather and other data direct to the cockpits of business and general aviation aircraft.

Under the FAA's Flight Information Services programme, Arnav Systems and NavRadio will build and operate competing datalink networks. These will broadcast basic text weather data at no charge and for a monthly service fee provide "value added products" such as graphical weather information.

The FAA believes the ability to datalink real-time weather information directly to the cockpit will improve safety by allowing pilots to anticipate and request changes to their flightplans.

The service will complement voice communication between aircraft and air traffic controllers and flight service stations. To use the service, aircraft will have to be equipped with a VHF data radio and multifunction cockpit display. The displays are already available, and certificated Mode 2 datalink radios will be ready early next year, the FAA says.

The system is scheduled to become operational in Alaska within six months, the FAA says, with full national deployment over the following year.

Source: Flight International